Inger Munch Pier
There are a few projects, just a few, in the life of a practice where the stars align. Where on completion at the opening celebration, love fills the air as a group of people mark together, as it turns out, a great endeavour and extraordinary working relationships. As Chief Curator of the Munch Museum, Jon-Ove Steihaug eloquently expressed in his opening speech, these kinds of landmark projects require at the beginning, a ‘leap of faith’.
The project was integral to a major public art commission embedded in Estudio Herreros’ 2008 concept for the design of a relocated Munch Museum to the waterfront, alongside the new Norwegian National Opera by local architects, Snøhetta. These two buildings were major pieces of a complex, ambitious and uncompromising jigsaw of post-industrial waterfront regeneration, nicknamed The Barcode, formerly a busy container port and a major highway junction.
The project owned by the City of Oslo and was a unique collaboration between several agencies. Kulturetaten (KUL), Oslo’s City Council for Cultural Affairs, responsible for the art project, appointed an Art Commission made up of eminent individuals from the art world. From a short list of invited artists, all of international renown, Tracey Emin was selected. Her proposal, titled ‘The Mother’ would become part of the City of Oslo’s Art Collection. The process to decide where this significant work of art would best be located started in 2017 and quickly focused on the pierhead adjacent to the new museum. This was to be a constructed island on piles, historically a timber quay with a breakwater to help salmon navigate up the Akerselva river.
Emin’s proposal reflected a lifelong admiration for Edvard Munch and illustrated a kneeling female figure of monumental scale, in a natural meadow, against the backdrop of the cityscape of Bjørvika. Promising a striking presence, the Art Commission substantiated their decision by saying the proposal had, ‘an immediate and visceral artistic approach, appearing both intimate and majestic, vulnerable and grandiose… the title The Mother referring to a mature protector, presenting a non-idealised female depiction, bringing to mind the ubiquitous motives of women in Munch’s work’. The Art Commission felt the work would appeal to a wide range of visitors and would become a prominent landmark, a symbol for Oslo as much as for MUNCH.
“Tracey Emin would like the landscape to be like a natural meadow, organic, and beautiful. It should be a simple garden landscape that doesn’t appear expensive. It should seem green and gentle, like a garden with wild flowers changing with the season. Wild, simple, grass and flowers around. Light, like she (The Mother) is sitting in the field.”
Artist’s statement, Tracey Emin CBE, 2018
In selecting Emin, it was evident that the existing proposal for the pierhead island landscape – angular and engineered – could not meet the artist’s vision of a place that was ‘green and gentle’. The setting of this significant new work was, for Emin, an integral part of how the sculpture should appear in the landscape and required a creative collaboration. Thus, an invited international competition for a Landscape Architect was put in motion. The brief stipulated that the landscape scheme should be adapted to ensure that is an inviting and attractive public area, accessible to visitors year-round while attending to the vision of the artist. The design also needed to meet certain stringent physical, functional and environmental requirements. The last test was a meeting together with the Tracey Emin and Harry Weller, her Creative Director. It was informal yet exacting. A soft interrogation of the concept from procurement strategies to fine-grained detail of edges and plant palettes. The conversation flowed naturally but was searching to establish whether we not only could translate the artist’s vision into a landscape dynamic – but also whether we could see eye to eye.
The site was stupendous, the brief beguiling, the thought of working with Emin – exciting. The project seemed to touch key aspects of our ‘design with nature’ ethos, our cross-sector and trans-disciplinary practice, our action research focused on the climate crisis, soil biodiversity, sustainable drainage, urban nature and good city making. It also sung to us as we’d recently made a research trip to Norway to study the bold and poetic integration of architecture and landscape in a joint initiative of the Norwegian Tourism and Highways agencies. The purpose being to create greater access to Norway’s more remote and breath-taking rural landscapes and unique ecology. This included discovering the preeminent Norwegian thinker Arne Næss, whose environmental philosophy of Deep Ecology, an eco-centric view of the inherent worth of all interconnected life, resonated profoundly.
On this rich foundation the concept emerged swiftly in a series of sketches entitled SEEDBED. They were both fluid and firm in intent. The island would become an urban habitat, a dynamic process of growing. It would be made porous and absorbent, a soft landscape of soils and aggregates, recycled from the adjacent development, layered up over the concrete slab. These substrates would form contoured and graded growing media to create a coastal ecology to support invertebrates and birdlife. The bronze would create niches of shelter where natural regeneration could take hold, creating a variable pattern of biophytes, wildflowers, grasses, sturdy resilient scrub planting and indigenous trees, that would gradually become wind pruned to reflect the prevailing wind. Facing into the wind and to the sea, The Mother would protect her soil and her landscape, behind and around her. In her wind shadow the soil would become a seed bed, with paths trodden rather than made, meandering around her. The presence of The Mother would slowly establish a deep ecology, ever changing and unfolding in her shadow over time and through the seasons. Evolving as a rich and unique coastal meadow habitat, the landscape would challenge perceptions of natural beauty. It would embrace time in a dynamic cycle, with a light touch long-term management ethos – less ‘maintenance operations’, more ‘creative conservation’.
Effectively, in overlaying growing media onto the proposed inert island slab, a green roof at ground level would be made – a construction familiar in rural Norway where buildings seemed to effortlessly melt into landscape. The overlay of soft construction would become a mosaic of soil depths and soil specifications of wetter and dryer patches. The variable thicknesses creating a diversity of conditions for flora and fauna to focus on biodiversity in the city, coinciding with Oslo’s nomination as European Green City 2019.
Our competition win in December 2018 was laden with sense of excitement and responsibility. The contractual requirements for delivery were onerous with financial penalties directly placed on our practice for late delivery and non-compliance linked into a wider legal agreement between the city’s developer partner and the City itself. The budget was tight, the programme fast – just 3 months for concept to technical detail for submission for planning consideration and relevant integration into a wider complex construction delivery commitment. Not only that, for practical and strategic reasons the team we put together was half made up of trusted UK based sub-consultants and half a Norwegian contingent of lawyer, landscape architect and civil engineer. Enthusiastic phone conversations with all parties followed, but particularly with local Landscape Architect Kristian Holo, which gave us confidence. We felt strongly a UK / Norwegian team would not only demonstrate an attitude of cultural collaboration but would also ensure our work would meet all relevant regulations and be packaged in a way familiar to the construction industry in Oslo. As it happened, this meant we’d unwittingly built-in resilience to secure project delivery – even in the face of the trauma of a global pandemic.
We were messaged by client Project Manager Lily Vikki from KUL, on a Friday in December 2018, to confirm that after our meeting, Tracey Emin had approved the Art Commission’s selection – which had been unanimous. By the following Monday at 09:00 we were on site! In deep snow and darkness, we gathered in a site hut, part of large construction compound on the waterfront, effectively as one big blind date. We had found Landscape Architects Holo&Holo through Snøhetta, Kristian Holo being well respected in practice and academia, known for his proactive approach and technical expertise. Our submission team also initially included environmental engineers Erichsen Horgen specialising in water management as our proposal maximised porosity and
attenuation, to make the island spongey and therefore full of life. Our UK team included Ceri Spears of TOHA eminent soil scientists, David Withycombe of LMS, experienced land manager and Chantelle Stewart of Studio Dekka, lighting designer. Together, from the point of commission on 7th December to the Christmas break we developed and delivered a fully costed concept design. Design freeze and technical design package was complete by end of March 2019. Procurement commenced immediately to enable the island and its landscape to be complete according to the legal agreement, by the end of that year. The Mother with her landscape was due to be opened the following spring, 2020.
Working between London and Oslo demanded we project manage the process and design team creatively and tightly. Frequent meetings with Tracey Emin were shoehorned in between her major exhibitions, made possible through fluid communications with Harry Weller. The weight and precise height of the bronze was not yet agreed. The scale of The Mother was controversial and logistics for her installation unresolved. A close and enjoyable working relationship was fostered with KUL, especially with Project Manager Lily Vikki, who provided timely decisions and enlightened efficiency especially in the light of the unusual situation of the culture team delivering a landscape, rather than the Agency of Urban Environment, Bymiljøetaten (BYM). BYM held some scepticism of the possibilities of success or the ability to deliver to the sustainable design and management standards they required as ‘project owner’, with the ultimate responsibility for long-term management.
Huddled in the back of a restaurant in Bermondsey near the White Cube Gallery while Tracey and Harry took a break from hanging her exhibition, A Fortnight of Tears in 2019, we ran through critical items we needed to resolve and agree to maintain momentum. Our agenda included agreeing the precise location and orientation of The Mother and discussing increasing her height from 7m to 9m high which the artist felt was critical. There was also how to seemingly un-design the design of the meadow edges, to give the illusion of the meadow spontaneously erupting from the deck while protecting it from the predicted crowds – perhaps half a million a year. To enable decisions to be made we had recommended to KUL that Holo&Holo be commissioned directly to make a dynamic virtual model of the museum, the island and The Mother. We could then test its impact on historic view corridors across the harbour at the full 9m height, which was a concern of the city planners. We could also test slight rotations and shifting of the Bronze. We considered two significant shifts. One was to draw the Bronze back into the centre of the island to allow a more room for her splayed legs to engage with the soil beneath her knees.
The other was a reorientation, which we felt would connect The Mother more forcefully with the open waters of the fjord. Intriguingly, that reorientation made sense of the architecture of the museum behind. The tilt of the top floors seemingly responding to the gentle but powerful bow of her head over overlapped hands, creating a ripple forcefield between the masculine nature of the building and the soft strength of the Bronze. We captured this post rationalisation in a series of sketches and over that lunch agreed all aspects, before heading to the gallery with Tracey for the ‘surprise’ – experiencing a 3m version of The Mother for the first time, which began to suggest the powerful impact the full-size piece would have. We photographed it from the angles we needed for the visualisations we were preparing to aid the rapid design approval process. This package specified the agreed soft approach to lighting the Bronze, local material sourcing of surface mixes and stone, advanced seed collection and plant procurement, soil profiles, sand scrapes for burrowing bees, moorings, bespoke furniture, a full management and maintenance plan forecasting into the future. The bridge design interface and requirements for the snow plough became a bit of a tussle as were intent on de-paving the island as much as we could. Emin’s exhibition opened to much acclaim alongside Alan Yentob’s Imagine documentary – Where Do You Draw the Line.
Visiting Oslo every month for a packed schedule of meetings and site visits included a boat trip to Hovedøya, a nature reserve and one of several small islands off the coast of Oslo. Here we explored how the local geology expressed itself. On the north side outcrops were evident in striking striations of compressed sludge into shale, blackened with a high carbon content. We were drawn by the fluidity of the folds of shale and contrasting creamy limestone nodules of the Ordovician age – some 500m years old. A layer cake of sedimentary rock known locally as Alunskifer (Alum shale) laid down in a south east – northwest orientation. We were convinced that expressing this stone would not only make a fundamental connection of the artificial landscape of the
museum island to its bedrock but also to the wider natural landscape character of the archipelago of the Oslofjord. The rock was also characterised by a gently shedding of surface shale, used locally for informal pathways in the Botanic Gardens, for instance. The natural process of growth and erosion could be encapsulated in this material which would speak of underlying geological narratives of the calcareous islands of the coastal zone.
The benefits of collaborating with a local Landscape Architect are many. One being that we could nail the local sourcing of this stone. Since we had focused on the Alum shale, Kristian Holo, not only a landscape architect but also a farmer, had noticed a stockpile of it on a neighbouring farm, while out riding. He arranged for us to visit where we found large handsome weathered pieces, some with moss growth that had been there for some time, discarded as overburden. We carefully selected pieces with a natural shape, large but shallow. When placed in the ground although barely dug in, the illusion would be that there was much more below. In this way we could work within the exacting loading limitations of the island construction, which seemed to become more
restrictive with the ever-increasing weight of the Bronze. Kristian negotiated a price and secured the stock. We later learned that the farmer’s grandfather had supported Edvard Munch when he was destitute, even though he was not a fan of his paintings, buying his work to help him survive then hanging them in the family toilet on the farm!
We’d spent much time honing the competition design for the pathways, juggling between technical requirements and the artist’s definitive vision for an un-made landscape ‘simple and inexpensive’ in Emin’s own words. We wanted the surfaces underfoot to look and feel as if a huge wave had engulfed the island construction and, in the waters drawing back, its inherent energy had scraped the top surface away to reveal river gravels of various grades as if part of the Akerselva riverbed had been deposited around The Mother. A photographic study of the ebb and flow at the confluence of coastal and fresh waters inspired a sinuous path alignment, which would effortlessly draw visitors close to the Bronze in a perambulation through the meadow.
The river gravels were found in local quarries, mixed with rocks from the breakwater, which we hand selected, as this construction designed to direct salmon up the river had to be temporarily removed during piling operations. With cross sectional studies we illustrated the dynamics of how the Bronze would seem to engulf the meadow in one direction, while in the other it would be the meadow that set the scene for the Bronze especially on approach from the bridge, in a gradual reveal through the diaphanous canopies of the birch. River stones embedded in the paving, heralding the transition from Museum to island landscape.
The piling operation was complex, working exceptionally close to the subterranean motorway tunnel approach to Oslo drilling 60 piles, each between 40 and 50 meters deep. Sensors monitored vibrations to mitigate any structural impact. In fact, the complexities meant that piling was arrested multiple times while detailed checks were carried out and this delayed the overall project programme by several months into 2020. The bridge span was set accordingly across the underwater infrastructure and the extend of the island mirrored the historic timber piled pierhead. We were keen to recycle the old worn timbers and to repurpose for the benches as though driftwood deposited in a storm. Emin was clear that these elements should not distract from the appreciation of the Bronze while providing a comfortable place to rest in the aura of The Mother, the city and the beauty of the fjord. The condition of the piles did not allow us to recycle the timber, but we replicated their character in our log length bench design using European oak from Slovenia, crafted by a local boat builder, bolted to the deck.
The entreprenør or development partner, KID (Kultur- og Idrettsbygg, nå Oslobygg), headed up by project manager Magnus Hanæs, laid out the detailed construction phasing plan for these activities, of which the museum island was a just a tiny patch in a vast and fast-moving programme of redevelopment and hard engineering. As the island landscape was integral to the presentation and experience of the scuplture. We needed to peel back that engineering, to create a place that was soft and biodiverse for The Mother. We walked the conservation meadows of Hovedøya as well as a series of mini meadows close by, established by BYM under the close instruction of city ecologist Bård Øyvind Bredesen. This not only helped reinforce good relations between departments over the project, but more importantly enabled us to benefit from his generous expertise and on-the-ground experience. He advised the best plants to reflect the rich diversity of flora associated with the limestone geology, unique to Oslofjord.
In parallel, a soil resource plan and specification were developed with our soil scientist. It was important to develop a basic nutrient poor substrate of almost more sand than soil laid to varying depths, with a certain amount of the local limestone incorporated just below the surface, which we merged with the protective stone edge detail. The fine sand specified was typical of the Akerselva riverbed and could also be used in localised sand scrapes of 0.6-2 mm range to create nesting opportunities for solitary bees. The surface sloped from bridge crossing to pierhead, thereby giving a profile of thicker and shallower depth of growing media which we further manipulated to create a topography related to required rooting zones. This soil could replicate lost calcareous meadow habitat rich in biodiversity and particularly attractive to pollinating insects. Our competition submission had illustrated a cluster of small clumps of scrub vegetation as if self-seeded in the protected soils behind The Mother.
A diverse handful of scrubby pioneer plants typical of the islands were incorporated, including Prunus spinosa and Rhamnus catharticus, propagated from seed by Kristina Bjureke of the Botanic Gardens, pro bono. She has also promised to take cuttings of a variety of local provenance mountain ash to be planted in the coming years, thus creating wider botanical links. An initial list of 20-30 species was developed according to their ecological importance, colour and resilience, some happy to grow almost on the rock itself. Due to the fast programme the plant list needed to be available as seed already collected, due to the scarcity of qualified seed collectors at short notice with a small window for collection. To expedite matters we made contact with Hans Martin Haslin of the Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy research (NIBIO) and requested KUL formally engage the institute to access his expertise and their seedbank from which to supply the nursery and enable an immediate start. In fact, this open engagement of a wider community of scientific expertise led to a valuable field trip to several of the biotope green roofs in Oslo that were being installed and monitored by NIBIO, mimicking shallow calcareous soil systems. In these matters, having Holo&Holo working alongside us was invaluable. Not only did it enable tighter cost planning, but it meant that technical discussion and clarifications could be carried out in Norwegian, specifications checked and integrated into our design work.
Under the umbrella of our social enterprise Landscape Learn, to expand stakeholder involvement and inspire a wider community, we collaborated with KUL to gather a group of local environmental scientists, naturalists and botanists with representatives from the Munch Museum, the contractor KID and our team. The Meeting in a Meadow event was curated to discuss cross sector opportunities and broaden the ecology of the project. We learned that the focus of much research at Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA) over the last decade was focused on the multi-dimensional benefits of nature in the city, whether mitigating stormwater events, creating infiltration and soft vegetated areas to slow the flow, cooling the city or lessening the effects of urban heat island. Senior research scientist at NINA, David Barton, suggested that in creating the Munch Museum meadow on the island, we’d be creating the coolest park in Oslo, in more ways than one – as the planting and the surrounding water would regulate local temperatures. When looking for somewhere cool, where you could also cool down on a hot summer’s day in the city, he said, ‘this will be the place’.
Other participants in the meadow that day inspired by the meeting of minds, included Markus Sydenham, research expert in the ecology of bees, who further broadened the conversation. He described the intimate links of bees and cultural history, citing large parts of Oslo that used to provide bee habitat. Most of the local bees are drawn to early successional habitats, such as semi-natural grassland or hay meadows found on small patches of land, such as road verges – of similar size to the island! Known locally as Akerholmer, this marginal land was harvested for hay as winter feed for livestock. The seasonal cutting of the Akerholmer kept the grasses from growing tall and suppressing the wildflowers. Over time the mowing and removal of hay resulted in flower rich meadows – the associated bee diversity being seen therefore as an ‘accident’ of traditional agricultural practice, a ‘pausing’ of nature – pausing natural succession for the benefit of bees. Recreating an example of these flowering meadows could provide a mirror on the past while reflecting Edvard Munch’s own preoccupation with the cycle of life. With the expertise of our Land Manager, through design development we embedded care-taking practice, operations and prescriptions necessary for establishment and evolution of this precious island micro-habitat. A pause in this unique context – less agricultural, more cultural.
These multiple dimensions of the work – the transformation of an area classified as an ecological ‘desert’, engaging nature-based solutions for adaptation to climate change, expressing a deep cultural narrative of environmental rehabilitation alongside the artist vision of celebrating and protecting the home of Munch – gave depth and meaning to the SEEDBED into which The Mother’s knees would rest.
Conscious that KUL, our client, was less familiar with plant procurement than with commissioning of public art, we felt Lily Vikki’s involvement in the process was critical, especially as this meant agreeing up front expenditure. With Holo&Holo’s knowledge we persuaded KUL to advance procure to secure the local provenance seed, plug plant order and pre-established meadow mats. To ensure the right quality of supply and a supplier we could trust to rise to the prominent and high-profile nature of the contract, we went to source. First, Ljona Stauder, a stunning nursery location high above Ulvik where we inspected the propagation unit. The skill in seed collection and identification for propagation was secured through NIBIO, as provenance and specie was paramount to ensure plant DNA provided the right resilience to the exposed coastal microclimate and calcareous soils. Over homemade apple juice and cake we scrutinised the plant list and discussed the artists vision and programme constraints against the growing season. We agreed a staged installation of the meadow cognisant of the capacity of the nursery and availability in supply of seed. We also agreed an additional contingency order. Our meeting covered broader issues of the wider interest in urban nature, community engagement, interpretation, the way these plants would
combine to create sensory contact with nature in the heart of the city and the demands on us – designer, contractor and supplier together – to deliver the meadow looking like a dream on opening.
Second, we inspected Bergknapp, a supplier near Stavanger. His large-scale methodology and capacity seemed spot on. This would be a bespoke order in terms of seed composition, substrate and fabric of the mat which needed to be coir, rather than their standard plastic mesh as a contract requirement of our material specification was no plastic. The extensive fields of pre-seeded mats reflected the growing commercial market for urban green roofs, rather than the traditional method of a stoney soil substrate with its own inherent seedbank, allowing natural regeneration – a well-tested low cost, resilient construction. Our design contingency planning was through the procurement strategy of first laying pre-seeded meadow mats. The mats would be seeded with the same local provenance source seed, designed to quickly cover the newly laid soil and prevent any germination of unwanted invasive species. The small plug plants would be drilled through the mat. The contract growing of the plugs and the mat was expedited with barely one full growing season. It was agreed that if the mats could be ordered and seeded immediately that May (2020) they would have just enough time to root through sufficiently for supply a year later.
As there would be so much focus on the meadow and due to its petite scale, we felt it important to include irrigation for establishment to integrate temporary protection by way of a low post and rope barrier that could be erected and dismounted easily. In addition, randomly placed, well-designed signs staked into the ground to inform the public that the meadow was in the making and required care and attention. Other tags were placed giving the scientific and common names of the wildflowers as they appeared to encourage visitors to engage with the landscape and to cultivate a certain curiosity and appetite to know more. We located the digital sign on the far side of the bridge to give rolling updates on exhibitions, what was in flower, educational programmes and outreach information alongside detail on the public art commission and its landscape.
From approval of technical information in March 2019 and with advanced procurement contracts let for the plants and stone, it was just a case of KID meeting contractual obligations of the construction programme and the Bronze would be installed after snowmelt. However, in spring 2020 the world was plunged into a global pandemic. AB Fine Art Foundry, casting the monumental Bronze in London, was severely impacted and the word ‘survival’ took on a depth of meaning for the project through which Lily Vikki held her cool and maintained her optimism and belief. Construction work in Norway continued with less onerous lockdowns than in the UK, and the landscape contract progressed with our ability to maintain a virtual site presence through the trust
and respect built by now with the KUL, Holo&Holo and KID. Specific stone layouts and unique stone alignments meticulously detailed and specified could also be fine-tuned and approved on video calls between London in lockdown and site activities in Bjørvika.
A significant challenge that arose was the failure of the meadow mats to establish in time. This meant a rapid change of tack increasing the quantity of plug plants where supply would allow and overseeding with a bespoke mix instead. Compounding the problem, a rampant crop of red clover emerged set to swamp all else due to an error in the seedmix. Again, the on-site presence of Kristian Holo meant a counter charge was agreed that covered the cost of multiple hand weeding operations to clear the clover while carefully work around newly establishing wildflowers. Despite this setback, the landscape was completed to programme and to budget by our tight, talented and experienced core design team. The island was named Inger Munch’s Pier after the Edvard Munch’s sister and opened, due public pressure, in June 2020 in the midst of the pandemic, to allow locals in lockdown to access nature and a have a place to swim in the heart of the city. With an acute sense of mounting anticipation for The Mother, the meadow became a charged void – waiting, growing, blooming.
It is no wonder, the high emotion of the opening weekend two years on. The dramatic craning in of the now 18t Bronze by a 500t crane located on the adjacent pier. The skilled UK logistics team MTEC Fine Art had taken down every traffic signal between London and Harwick to enable the exceptional load to be transported for shipment to Oslo on the largest vessel possible. An expert team of craftsmen from the foundry had welded the bronze together under the protection of a temporary building over the previous months. Teams from the Munch, KUL, KID and their excellent landscape contractors, our Norwegian and UK team with press and city dignitaries gathered, with Harry Weller and Tracey Emin herself as soils and meadow strips were carefully peeled back, revealing the foundation plinths designed for resilience in the face of coastal wind forces on the anchor bolts in this highly exposed location. Holding our breath as 32 bolts were aligned in a choreography that was moving and audacious, bedding the waxed folds of femininity, of monumental proportion, into her seedbed.
We had on hand essentially a repair kit of common cowslip Primula veris and sods of meadow that had been temporarily lifted and put into wheelbarrows to make way for this operation. Flowering on cue in the June sunshine were oxeye daisy, vipers bugloss, coldfoots trefoil, red campion, plantain, billowing in a stiff coastal breeze. The MUNCH, seemed to bow over in reverence just a bit more. I handed Tracey a stainless-steel dibber (a pointed garden implement for planting bulbs, seedlings, or small plants), made in Sheffield as a gift, to help her form three small perfect holes. I popped out the Primula plugs (Plug plant: young plants – either seedlings or cuttings grown in single units in modular trays) from their tray and instead of cutting a ribbon, she planted the plugs into the seedbed between the knees of The Mother. It was indeed hard not to be overwhelmed with the life force of Emin, against all odds, in the aura of her work, in a place where art and nature now embraced Oslo, with hope and absolute honesty.
The June 2022 surveys of The Mother Meadow have just been completed by NINA.
Despite its limited size and inhospitable location researcher Markus Sydenham says he is surprised to see how quickly the bees have found the site. Notably two new species of solitary bees from last year’s survey were recorded. One which is considered threatened on the Norwegian IUCN list, Anthophora quadrimaculata, which was observed ‘eagerly collecting pollen from Vipers Bugloss (Echium vulgare)’. In all, three specie of bumble bee, three specie of solitary bee and one domesticated honeybee specie were observed. As a demonstration urban pollinator habitat, Sydenham notes it is ‘very reassuring to know that installing a meadow like this can help even rare and threatened bees’. He was also keen to point out that in the context of The Mother as a feminist statement, most bees are effectively single mums bringing up their offspring themselves. It is these female bees that dig into the ground to excavate a nest, collect pollen for their progeny and lay their eggs, foraging perhaps only 200-300m from the nest – now well provided for on Inger Munch’s Pier.
It has taken the Ministry of Environment a century to restore the Akerselva, formerly the most polluted river in Norway. If the progressive removal of industry had not been done, this location would simply not have been considered for a museum project in the first place. So, at a time when nature is often at the mercy of urban planning, the story actually starts with the recovery of nature in Oslo and could not be more meaningful in the context of the biodiversity, health and climate crises, as a strong physical symbol of nature restoration. At the new home of Munch, The Mother in ‘welcoming of all nature’ (Tracey Emin’s words) – organic and beautiful, green and gentle, conveys our deepest emotions, fears and hopes. And Oslo is ‘enriched with a beautiful new monument to the imperfection, strength and vulnerability of life’ (Jon-Ove Steihaug’s speech 4th June 2022), an oasis for bees, a soft place for life, nature, art.
Designers: J & L Gibbons, London (Project Lead, Landscape Architects, visualisations) – Johanna Gibbons, Peter Kennedy
Collaborating Landscape Architects: Holo & Holo, Oslo – Kristian Holo, Jørgen Holo
Development partner: Kultur- og Idrettsbygg Oslo KF (KID), now Oslobygg KF
Landscape contractor: Braathen Landskap
Architect of the Munch museum: Estudio Herreros Architects – Jens Richter | Partner
Location: Inger Munch Pier, Oslo, Norway
Typology: Landscape Infrastructure
Area: Footbridge 250 m2 / Quay construction 810 m2 / Wooden pier of 220 m2 / Total recreation area of 1280 m2
Client: Project Manager for The Agency for Cultural Affairs of the City of Oslo (KUL) / Lily Vikki
J & L Gibbons competition landscape contract value:
Island engineering structure: 90 million NOK / £7.4m excluding the art project
The entire art project: Including the sculpture fully assembled, the landscape with flower meadows and
the pier construction. Oslo municipality spent approx. 14 million, the rest financed by the artist herself:
18.6 million NOK / £1,544,665
Landscape commission construction value: 4,300,000 NOK / £358K
Landscape contract: Braathen Entreprenør: Culture and sports building Oslo KF’s allocation for the
construction of a new landscape (allocated before the art project was created) 3,400,000 (landscape
contract) / £282K
Bronze: The sculpture itself fully assembled in place: 14 million NOK / £1,162,651
Supplier/Sponsor: The artwork was funded by the City of Oslo’s Art Programme in conjunction with building the
new MUNCH Museum in Bjørvika.
Photo Credits: © Istvan Virag, Ingvild B. Myklebust and J & L Gibbons
J & L Gibbons
J & L Gibbons is an established and visionary Landscape Architecture studio based in London. The practice began in 1986 and is renowned for its innovative and holistic design process combining research and an open-minded approach to design. J & L Gibbons has the experience and skill to envisage and communicate the dynamic and specific beauty of each landscape over the long-term. The practice is driven by a desire to safeguard the deep ecologies that shape the character of a place. It is dedicated to key practice priorities of design quality, integrated green infrastructure, promoting natural heritage (especially veteran trees), landscape stewardship and community empowerment through sharing knowledge and experience in the landscape. This is reflected in the studio’s portfolio which is characterised by a scrupulous understanding of both natural processes and community networks.